Why Emerging Pollutants in Water Need to Raise our Adrenaline.

Why Emerging Pollutants in Water Need to Raise our Adrenaline.

Water is so dear to our survival. If asked about what makes man, I would gladly answer that it is water. Science states that over 50% of the human body is made of water. Precisely, about 60% of the male body is water with about 55% of the female body accounting for water. The 5% difference, though the percentages may vary from person to person, is because females have more fat than males.

Outside the human body, water is very important as well. We use water for bathing, cooking, farming, cleaning, industrial use, and very many other roles. But like a cycle, these activities seem to all be interrelated.

The water cycle mostly read in geography and science lessons talks about atmospheric water. I believe there should be another water cycle that should revolve around human beings. What I mean is the water usage cycle which needs to be infused into the natural water cycle.

Access to water

With that understanding, we can know the effect of some of our actions on the natural water cycle and how those actions come back to affect us. In Africa, for instance, a lot of people in the villages drink water directly from streams without any form of treatment. Not even boiling.

Others harvest the rainwater and drink it raw as well. In most villages, if not all, there is no piped water for drinking as well as the technology in the form of portable filters. For those who are trying something, they add chlorine or chlorine products (offered as aid in most instances) directly to the water. Whether they are doing it right and adding the right amounts is another story altogether.

So, some parts of the world are gobbling with the issue of accessing safe water in the first place. Other places have issues regarding access to any water, let alone safe water. This needs to come as a reminder about how we take our access to water and safe water for that matter, literally. And as such, we need to be careful in how we use that water.

Water Safety

Yet even for those people who have access to water, there are concerns about their safety, especially for drinking purposes. The point no longer becomes about accessing the water but rather how free it is from contaminants and pollutants.

The common belief that industrially treated water is free of any contaminants is wrong. The water may be clean for sure (physically) and as guaranteed by those readings of the parameters tested which may be within the acceptable limits.

But what about those contaminants not tested, which do not have any range in terms of acceptable limits and ones that do not have test procedures for them? It means that they don’t get tested, are never detected irrespective of their concentrations, and thus find their way to our human system.

In the case of those consuming water that is not tested and treated, the risk is double. Well, I grew up drinking that kind of water and sometimes I still do drink it when in the village but one thing I am pretty sure of is that the quality of the water I drank 20 years ago is not the same as the one I drink today.

Back then, I can say with authority, a lot of things were free of chemicals of any nature. Chemicals here means major classes such as agrochemicals and drugs. As time has gone by, the use of chemicals has been gradually increasing and as of now, they form an integral part of farming.

I cannot discredit the need for the use of fertilizers (for instance) as a whole, yet I believe there is a need to be moderate in undertaking sustainable forms of farming where agrochemicals and drugs don’t necessarily become an end of themselves.

Types of Emerging Contaminants. Courtesy of springer

Emerging contaminants

These agrochemicals such as pesticides and drugs such as antibiotics are a class of contaminants found in water classified as emerging contaminants (ECs). These ECs are chemicals or microorganisms, synthetic or naturally occurring, not monitored but ones that can have detrimental human health effects once they enter the body system.

ECs can also have adverse ecological effects which means that their effects can extend to other organisms by virtue of the fact that the environment is involved, or they are used in those organisms. And those organisms and their products get consumed by humans as food.

Other ECs include but are not limited to microplastics, surfactants that we use in synthetic detergents and soaps, chemicals used in personal care products such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, fire retardants, and nanomaterials which have been a class of science that has gained a lot of interest lately.

The unique thing associated with ECs as you may have noticed is that they are not monitored, hence the fear I raised earlier that they may exist in the water we drink. Additionally, issues are being raised by the scientific community that the water treatment methods being used currently do not fundamentally remove these ECs.

What do we do?

One thing is clear though. And that is the role we play as human beings in the fiasco. Our insatiable appetite for things is very high. For instance, the love for money has obscured our sense of limiting some chemicals in use for some of these products. It is always conspiracy upon conspiracy. The excuses could be true, such as increasing populations and the need for more food to meet the demand, but there can always be sustainable solutions.

However, we cannot sit and do nothing. That is akin to accepting defeat and perhaps stamping ourselves to sure death. Heightened research must go into the ECs not just to understand what they are and the effects they have on the environment and human health, but most importantly on how to detect them in water and eventually remove them. And this should be as urgent as urgency itself.

The rallying call should go forth that the usage of these chemicals should be monitored and find ways to remove them from the water we consume. In the future, I will do another piece to pinpoint what the exact chemicals are scientifically and what effects they have. Most importantly, I will note how much is being done and where we are on the journey of ensuring that the water we drink is indeed safe and free of ECs.

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege is the Editor and topical contributor for the Daily Focus. He writes in the areas of Science, Politics, Policy, Technology, Current Affairs, Opinion, Agriculture, Energy, Education, Entrepreneurship, Governance, International Emerging Issues, Society, and culture. For featuring, promotions or support write to us at dailyfocus9@gmail.com
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